So often do members of the various departments in a business have a narrow view of the company as a whole. This can have a detrimental effect on staff productivity and company culture, and is something that business leaders should be tackling. Creating an atmosphere that not only facilitates, but encourages cross-functional collaboration, is an excellent way to drive a business forward and secure an optimum workforce.
Cross-Functional Collaboration: What it is & why it matters
The term cross-functional collaboration refers to when employees from different departments work together, combining their skills and expertise. This could be on individual projects, or across the board on a regular basis.
Cross-functional collaboration helps you get the best out of your teams, who often feed off each other’s ideas and use conversation to stimulate creativity. Managers are likely to notice improved efficiency and productivity, as well as a positive atmosphere among staff.
Benefits of Cross-Functional Collaboration
As well as seeing a difference in productivity and staff attitudes, there are a number of other advantages for creating a workplace that facilitates cross-functional collaboration.
To achieve interdepartmental alignment
Most business leaders will be all too aware of the problems that come with poor communication, not only among senior staff but also between teams. When departments are not informed of what other departments are working on, business strategies can become disconnected and non-cohesive.
Every department in a business is there to carry out work which meets the needs of the business as a whole; each one is an integral cog in the company machine. When a team works independently of another, it could be discovered that the work they have been doing is redundant. An example of this could be a creative design team who have put together a modern design for your website. Without collaborating with your IT team, it might become apparent that your website does not have the capability to support their idea, after time has been spent creating it.
To avoid clashing objectives and targets
Another common problem in companies that don’t have collaboration among departments, is the occurrence of conflicting goals. A lack of awareness of the work of another department can easily lead to department heads setting targets and KPIs for their staff, which are either contradicted or not supported by other areas of the business.
An example of this might be if a content writer has been asked to deliver content which obtains x number of ‘click-throughs’. The writer might depend on a specific channel, such as an email marketing campaign, for their link to be shared, but this might not happen if the email marketing team has been set a target of including more deals on an email – in place of sharing the content.
To inform employees about the big company picture
Ensuring that every member of staff within a business is educated about the company’s goals and vision for the future, is a must in order to achieve high employee morale. Only when each employee knows how their work impacts everybody else, and helps the company to achieve its goals, do they feel valued. Feeling valued is absolutely imperative to get the best out of employees, who are likely to put in less than 100% effort if they have no understanding of why they do what they do.
To instil a sense of equality and respect
Cross-functional collaboration is a very effective method for getting staff to understand and respect one another. When they have the opportunity to hear each other’s ideas, and when they can learn about what other teams and departments are tasked with, it is far easier to appreciate the work they do. So often feelings of animosity and disdain are borne out of a lack of understanding of another team’s day to day.
How to Achieve Cross-Functional Collaboration
Cross-functional collaboration is something that should be ingrained into company culture; something that should not take a back seat or be forgotten over time, when new members of staff are brought on board. If this can be achieved, a sense of teamwork will become apparent in all areas, as collaboration will be the natural response to any problem.
It’s up to business leaders to start creating an atmosphere that encourages cross-functional collaboration, and up to senior staff to find ways of putting it in place. There are a number of ways to begin implementing this team-based philosophy.
Provide the necessary tools
They key thing to start implementing cross-functional collaboration is to make it easy for staff to collaborate. While face to face meetings are probably the most effective way to stimulate conversation and team work, it’s also important for staff to have access to other departments’ information. This could be in the form of shared digital boards, folders, or apps – anything that facilitates visibility of the work being carried out.
It should also be easy for all employees to be able to contact each other. In addition to phone and email, consider offering a companywide online chat group for convenient instant messaging. Remember to inform all members of staff about such software, and to run training sessions on how to use it, if necessary.
Schedule frequent meetings
While it’s unlikely to be possible to have every member of every team in a meeting, inviting one member from each department as a representative, or hosting optional open meetings, is a great way to encourage cross-functional collaboration. Encourage employees to use these as opportunities to ask questions, voice opinions, or offer ideas. The meetings should be seen as an idea-exchange platform from which every department can benefit, and a chance to give updates and information about the company as a whole.
It should be each department head’s responsibility to nominate a team member, or encourage their staff to go to interdepartmental meetings.
Job shadowing not only offers an employee the chance to learn about their colleagues’ roles, but it also allows for an effective means of collaboration. This is because it can sometimes take a fresh pair of eyes to solve a problem, or to make a suggestion for how to improve a process.
Business owners who have tried to implement a job shadowing scheme in the past might have found that it is too disruptive to the day to day, however making it a once a month or even once a quarter exercise can make all the difference. In addition to potential new ideas, job shadowing almost always leads to an increased sense of respect among employees.
Effective, regular communication – from the top level of the business down – is a must in order to achieve a collaborative culture. Illustrating the importance of communication by sending staff regular newsletters, or posting bulletins in the office to display news, is a helpful way to encourage the rest of your employees to follow suit.
When colleagues are aware of what’s happening in the company, and within other departments, they have a clearer picture of the business as a whole and their own position within it. Understanding this big picture is a huge part of stimulating cross-functional collaboration.
Business leaders who manage to instil a culture of cross-functional collaboration within their company will no doubt see a number of significant benefits. From happier staff to innovative thinking, the advantages of such a culture will help senior staff to go above and beyond delivering the business goals, driving the company to new heights.
Matt Bragg is a Director of FMP Global, one of the world’s leading outsourced payroll suppliers for SMEs. He’s also a commentator on HR and payroll, and a thought leader on digital working and employee engagement.